Two years ago I posted a recipe for "very good granola." That granola was indeed good. I ate it with pleasure and would happily eat it again. This granola, however, is better. It's a bit more trouble, but I don't think it actually takes more time. For one thing, that old recipe (like many others) involves toasting everything at a truly excruciatingly low temperature, which is unnecessary and takes forever.
In the interim, I have been convinced by this method if not quite those ingredients. I abominate sunflower seeds in granola and was also influenced by a New York Times piece a little while ago about the virtues of using olive oil and extra salt. And then, rather than mix in dried fruit at the same time as everything else, I add it to the bowl just before eating -- why not? That way you can choose something different every time, if you like. These days I am fond of dried cherries and Persian green raisins, which are beautiful and have their own very nice flavor, not quite like any other raisins I've had.
I also claimed that the "very good" recipe made "a fairly enormous quantity" -- half a gallon, including the dried fruit. In light of the quantities of granola now gracing my kitchen, this seems slightly comical. The recipe here makes at least fifteen cups before the fruit gets involved at all.
"INCONVENIENT" GRANOLA, HUNGRY-TIGER STYLE
The fundamental breakthrough here is not in the combination of ingredients, but in the technique. Each ingredient is toasted separately, because oats, nuts, seeds, and coconut cook at very different rates. Only the oats get the usual treatment with honey and oil, because it's much easier to achieve the perfect toastiness with the other ingredients when they're naked. Everything toasts more evenly with this method, too. Never before have I had granola in which the nuts were all really properly and deeply toasted, with genuinely toasted coconut as well, and, you know, this way is just better. Thanks, Susan of Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm!
You could make less of this, but the hassle is more or less the same up to this quantity. Above this amount, you'll probably need to use more than two cookie sheets, which makes life more difficult.
Finally, cookie sheets with a rim all the way around are much easier for this job than the other kind.
3-4 cups raw, unsalted nuts. I used slivered almonds, chopped pecans and a few hazelnuts. Anything is nice, as long as it's fresh and plain. Pine nuts would be great if you were feeling wealthy; pistachios would take the flavor in a very different, but good, direction.
About a cup of sesame seeds. I cheated and bought ones that were already roasted.
3 cups shredded coconut. Unsweetened is preferable, but sweetened will do in a pinch.
10-12 cups rolled oats
Half a cup of honey
Half a cup of olive oil
Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
At least 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. You will need two large bowls: one, the largest you have, for mixing together all the ingredients at the end, and another, large enough to mix the oats, honey, and oil.
In a small pan, heat together the oil and honey until they are warm and easy to pour. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the oats and mix very well. The goal is to lightly coat all the oats.
Start with the nuts. Spread them out on the baking sheets and bake. Keep an eye on them and give them an occasional stir. Take them out when they're toasty but not burnt. Let them cool a bit, then pour into the giant bowl.
Next, do the sesame seeds if you didn't cheat like I did. Then the coconut -- really be vigilant about watching this one, and be good about stirring it.
Finally, toast the oats. They'll take longer. Stir every once in a while. When they no longer look pale and wan, remove from the oven and let cool completely before adding to the other ingredients. Once they are cool, stir everything together, including the salt, and store in one or more air-tight containers. If you want to mix dried fruit in at this stage, go for it. As I said, I like to add my fruit at the table, along with some good yogurt.